Thursday, May 3, 2018

Don't Spoil the Views

by Drew Hanson

An unneeded powerline that would mar a vast scenic area is planned for southwest Wisconsin. Known as the Cardinal-Hickory Creek high-voltage transmission line, it would connect Middleton with Iowa by way of a 100+ mile string of 150-foot tall towers.

Driftless Area

According to National Park Service geologist, Robert Rose, “The driftless area of Wisconsin is world famous because it is an unglaciated area of considerable size … lying far within extensively glaciated territory.” The Cardinal-Hickory Creek powerline would slice through the Driftless Area, from one end to the other.

One of the organizations opposing construction of the powerline is Driftless Defenders. According to their website, the powerline would cost ratepayers in excess of $500 million.

Blue Mounds

Native Americans called them Mu-cha-wa-ku-nin or Smokey Mountains. Today we call them Blue Mounds. Wisconsin’s first scientist, Increase Lapham, wrote that Blue Mounds, “were very important landmarks to guide the traveler in his course through the boundless prairies.” This includes 10,000 years of pedestrian use on the Ancient Trail that existed between the mouth of the Wisconsin River and mouth of the Milwaukee River.

Blue Mounds remain an inspirational landmark to users of the Ice Age Trail. Like a distant guidepost, Blue Mounds are visible from at least a dozen places on the Ice Age Trail in Dane, Columbia and Sauk counties. Click on the map at right. Some of the view points include the ridge above the Village of Cross Plains, 11 miles from Blue Mounds, and from 29 miles away on the Ice Age Trail at Sauk Point in Devils Lake State Park. Farther south, Blue Mounds is visible from part of the Montrose Segment of the Ice Age Trail as well. One could argue that these multiple view points make Blue Mounds the most important scenic feature of the entire thousand-mile Ice Age Trail.

Why deface views of such an historic and scenic feature?

Black Earth Valley

The proposed powerline would also degrade views of Black Earth Valley which is home to Black Earth Creek. The creek is a class 1 trout stream that is recognized as a premier trout destination and regionally significant resource. It has benefited from intensive habitat improvements. According to the DNR’s website, “The history here is deep, multi-layered and dynamic.”

Along the south rim of Black Earth Valley, at a future unit of the National Park System, are prairie and oak savanna remnants. Along the opposite valley rim are also prairie and oak savanna remnants on privately-owned land. Volunteers have worked for decades to restore these rare native plant communities. Standing among large old oak trees, the views from valley rim to valley rim are outstanding. The view would be junked by the huge Cardinal-Hickory Creek powerline.

Not Needed

The future of energy is in conservation and local renewables.

According to a recent report by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, slow growth in electricity use is anticipated, with peak demand expected to increase just 0.5 percent a year through 2024. Such a small increase in demand can be met through energy conservation measures and modest investments in local renewables such as solar.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s website, the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from nonhydropower renewables is expected to increase by almost a full percentage point each of the next two years.

Dane County is leading the way. A massive solar energy site is planned for the Dane County Regional Airport. It would be the largest solar energy project in south-central Wisconsin and the second largest in Wisconsin. Coupled with other conservation and local renewables projects, it means we don’t need to spend $500+ million for a new huge powerline to bring power from elsewhere.

So enough with the Cardinal-Hickory Creek powerline idea. It is not needed and would deface treasured natural resources.

You can view the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) here.

You can email comments on the DEIS to

If you need help with your comments, see here.

1 comment:

  1. As always, excellent and informative work. Thanks for posting this, Drew.